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Norway: Kirkenes

Kirkenes is a town in the far north eastern part of Norway on the Bøkfjorden, a branch of the Varangerfjorden which is a vast bay connected to the Barents Sea near the Russian/Norwegian border. It is situated about 400 kilometres/250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. 100 kilometres/62 miles to the south is the border point of the three countries meet (Norway, Russia and Finland).

The midnight sun exists from mid-May to about the end of July. There is no real darkness between late April and mid-August. In the winter, a combination of snow and sunshine often creates intense light conditions from late February until the snow melts, usually in late April. It is possible, on Norway trips, to view the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). However, because it is always light in the summer, no Aurora Borealis is visible between late April and mid-August.

One of the best-known attractions is the Kirkenes Snow Hotel, rebuilt every year to be enjoyed on a Norway vacation between December and April. Even though the temperature inside is a constant minus four degrees Celsius, the beds are warm and comfortable with reindeer hide.

Among the most popular summer activities are boat trips, hiking, diving, fishing, hunting, climbing - and bird watching. Nearby Hornoya Island is one of Norway’s largest nesting sites with 150,000 birds, including puffins, guillemots, sea eagles and many more. During winter, activities that are offered are dog-sleigh trips, snowmobile tours and ice fishing.

The Border Area Museum showcases the history and lifestyle of the far north of Norway including a section devoted to the devastating effects of Second World War on Kirkenes, Sami indigenous art exhibitions and a history of the mining industry in the area. The Skolt Sámi Museum relates to the Sami indigenous people.

The Ovre Pasvik National Park is the largest area of primeval forest in Norway and part of the Russian taiga. It contains eastern species seldom seen in Western Europe such as bears.

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Kirkenes, Norway

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